Although there were meetings before the Fall, sin’s arrival has certainly multiplied them, complicated them, and often emptied them of purpose. Here are seven quick ways to lessen the effects of the Fall on your daily meetings.

1. Schedule for brevity. State start AND finish times on meeting invites. And gradually shorten the time between both!

2. Stand. Almost all Google meetings are stand-up meetings.

3. Invite no more than seven people. Research shows this is the optimum number for an effective meeting.

4. Have a visible ticking clock. This is another Google trick. But they project a 4-foot-tall timer on the wall that counts down the meeting. Not sure that will work at PRTS. Or the next time I sit down with my wife!

5. The best time for a meeting is Tuesday at 3pm. OK, that’s a joke. But seemingly Tuesday is the most productive day of the week and also the day most people are likely to show up.

6. Decide rather than dither. Managers (some pastors too?) spend more than 50% of their time in meetings, but Bain & Company research shows that two-thirds of meetings end before participants can make important decisions. Not surprisingly, 85% of executives are dissatisfied with the efficiency and effectiveness of their companies’ meetings.

7. Celebrate bad meetings. Dan Burrier says “there are no five words that worry me more than, ‘we had a great meeting.’” He argues that “bad meetings” usually produce more results! 

Obviously some of these are a bit tongue-in-cheek. More seriously, Ron Ashkenaz gives some pretty obvious basic meeting rules:

Be clear about what you want to accomplish; invite the right people; send out pre-reading in advance; have an agenda and follow it with discipline; send out notes with key decisions and action steps.

Then Ashkenaz moans: 

Unfortunately these basic and widely understood guidelines for effective meetings are probably the least followed procedures in corporate history. If the government conducted “meeting audits” almost every company would fail. Most managers still complain about ineffective meetings, and then proceed to schedule multiple meetings and run them poorly. It’s an amazing phenomenon.

But Ashkenaz admits what even the most fervent meeting-haters will agree with in their weaker moments: meetings are necessary and can even be beneficial. They encourage social interaction, keep everyone in the loop, and help people to feel valued.

These psychological drivers of meetings are very powerful — and usually trump all of the logical and rational “meeting management” advice that is doled out in courses and articles. In other words, what seems like wasted or unproductive time for many managers is actually fulfilling important personal and organizational needs.

Although I probably fall too much on the anti-meeting side, I must say that when well-conducted, meetings fulfill spiritual needs as well. In my last congregation we sometimes had 10 elders and 12 deacons in the same meeting. And although we often had controversial issues to deal with (like building a new church!), these meetings were actually much more like spiritual fellowships than board meetings. Spiritual bonds were deepened and appreciation for each other grew as we saw the various insights and gifts God had blessed different men with. I usually arrived home with the sense that God had once again kept His promise that where two or three are gathered in His name, He is in the midst. Ultimately that’s what makes a meeting good.